Leaders – knowing when to quit

We conclude this leadership organisational-vital blog series by asking an obvious question. When should a leader quit?

Leaders, good or bad, are professionally mortal. Leaders should know when the inevitable is starting to happen and leave voluntarily. The inevitable in the context of this blog equates to leaders understanding that they can no longer add signature-value to the bottom line at the organization they lead. Signature-value addition for the leader is bringing to the table sustained leverage for the led to tap into

Are you still an effective anchor and leverage point for the led?

Leaders play the anchor role and have to provide continuous leverage for the people they lead. In effect, leaders are OD. tools for the led. The led leverage the leader’s OD. mental superiority to shoehorn their ideas. Leveraging a leader supports a process that transforms the ideas of the led from basic to complex value-creating propositions

How leaders become an effective leverage tool for the led:

  1. By asking the right questions, and in the process helping those they lead shoe-horn their thinking and ideas – this is equivalent to coaching the led for growth of both the self and organization
  2. By taking on the work-products of the led, improving them, and ensuring they make the next level of quality – this is a hands-on leader
  3. By identifying the right external resources, likely the so-called consultant and other industry-network resources, to add signature-value to the work of the led and their leader. The latter is another route to idea-hardening, and creating signature-value for the organization. For example, a flooded consulting labor market makes the selection of the ‘right’ consultant an extremely cumbersome exercise. The authority that consultants ooze, authentic or not, intimidates the led into not asking the right questions of the experts. Leaders bring wit and experience to navigate the consultant contracting paths
  4. Making the right judgment call – in many instances, making the right judgment call is down to a leader knowing when to give the green-light to move ahead with an activity or process, the amber-light to hold and allow more reflection or observation, or the red-light to abandon action. Leaders play the traffic-light-signal role at the organization. Like it is on the roads when the traffic lights fail, disaster is likely to strike when the leader’s signaling machine fails

Yet, knowing and understanding when it’s time to move on can be tough for leaders. Leaders get so attached to the organization that letting go becomes hard. The latter is particularly the case at the bionically balanced entity due to the interplay between the leader’s role as: leader, strategy maker/overseer, chief structure designer (architect), and people manager. Indeed, practicing leadership at the bionically balanced entity is like swinging a pendulum. The leader oscillates between the four organisational-vitals [leadership, strategy, design (architecture), and people] and many never know with certainty which of the four OV’s are working well or not.

Because of the above, leaders tend to lose their sense of self-awareness. Leaders assume that they are doing well in the usually menacing maze of OD. dynamics at the bionically balanced entity. However, their sense of self-belief is at times unrealistic. Unaware, the complexity and fast moving organizational environment, create an OD. blind spot for the leaders – they believe that they are still asking the right questions, providing hands-on support to their teams when needed, and that they still are making the right judgment calls. However, in reality, the leaders will have entered, without knowing, the state of gradual regression

When regression sets in, stakeholders, both direct reports and other industry sector observers begin to question the leader’s attitude, behaviors, ability to sustain pressure that comes with leadership, and effective command of the leadership space

Leaders should not wait for others to observe that something is amiss. After-all, when leaders ‘listen’ to their inner sense, they will realize that something is broken and that it’s time to move on. Losing focus at the bionically balanced entity is dangerous for both leaders and organizations. The latter can quickly degenerate into: sub-optimal performance, value loss for the organization, and individual credibility issues.

Effective and smart leaders move on voluntarily when they can longer meet the above four demands of leadership anchoring and leverage. To move on is no admission of ineptitude. To the contrary, it’s a sign of sound and credible leadership. Leadership maturity and success are correlated to knowing when it’s time to move on.

At times, it is healthy to have a new start



Categories: You, the Leader!

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4 replies

  1. I strongly agree with you Apollo over the issue of quitting. My only problem is that quitting should not only be leveraged on to the point when one consciously realizes a loss of signature value to the organisation. Every one is a leader in whatever capacity and my argument is that people should learn to quit and try other ventures. This not only guarantees the enhancement of opportunity for future elites in leadership but also brokers innovation, creativity and democracy as new leaders will always look out on how else they can do it and in a better way.
    I have continuously continued to pray that when I make 40, I will not look for a job but jobs can look for me. This is a trend that we should be setting that people learn to leave power and leave peacefully.
    An old friend of mine Steven Mukalu (RIP) taught me that during our early years in Primary School and I have since lived by that.
    The problem is still counting on at the expense of the organisations unless leaders learn to quit voluntarily.

    Like

    • Alex – thanks for your insight on this matter

      Agree – if leaders realise that their short of signature-value and quit – the domino effect is new thinking, innovation, etc. The latter is good for wealth and other value creation

      How we get leaders to do what you suggest is our challenge!

      Like

  2. “Leaders never quit” Its a rare value in few leaders who do self assessment or self evaluation, decide that their value addition is nose diving and decide to quit. At least not in Africa! The competition for limited leadership positions keeps many leaders “hanging in” hoping that situation will improve …. but wapi, sometimes, a whip is used to show them the door way! aka sacking!

    Apollo, you have brought a sensitive topic. I have always sought challenging working environment that keeps me awake to think and seek new directions in solving emerging organizational problems. In my experience, when my work becomes routine tasks for over a year, and as colleagues feel comfortable, that’s when quitting becomes an option. Leave when everyone thinks you are most needed. Not when you are least needed. It is a tricky balance and I do hope Boards of Director should be sensing when work bores the CEO. Otherwise, we have seen many leaders working to entrench themselves than setting pace for sustained leadership succession plan.

    Like

    • Dear kairukabi – yes, we have many examples of leaders that don’t WANT or KNOW when to relinquish power

      All I can say is that they aren’t smart leaders and can’t do well at a bionically-balanced entity

      Ultimately, they do lose focus – perhaps that is the reason American presidents can only do x8 years!!

      I hope that the four levers in this blog will help such leaders to authenticate their signature-value addition situation

      Like

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